I lived in New York City for almost ten years. So if there’s one thing I should be able to do, it’s navigate between two known locations, like say Penn Station and my former office in the Financial District.
But when I arrived in town on Monday, I hit a little bump. The first downtown train to chug into the station wasn’t a familiar N-R-Q, but the W.
“The W?!” I announced to no one in particular. “Since when is the W a thing?”
I wasn’t expecting a response, but it was New York and hardly anyone here can resist the opportunity to complain about the MTA. Three separate people answered me: the first to tell me that the W started running in November, the second to list all the times this train has personally inconvenienced him during the past six weeks, and the third to point out that the W was “always a thing… six years ago.”
Each of those people delivered their answers as though they were competing for the title of “True New Yorker.” Little did they know that the distinction was about to be won by the man who was sleeping on the train and didn’t even flinch when I ran over his foot with a suitcase on my way into the car.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is a perfect way to describe life in New York: The longer you stay, the louder you get, until you get tired, at which point you just don’t give a W about anything.
I haven’t encountered a better way to sum up New York living since the time I saw a man put a radio controlled speed boat in a duck pond at Central Park.
I shouldn’t have taken the W, mostly because I had no idea where it went. But I got on anyway because even though I’m unfamiliar with pre-2010 train routes, my decade of experience tells me that the yellow line will eventually dump me in the Financial District.
It did. And apparently, this is what the Cortland Street stop looks like these days:
Welcome to the Westfield World Trade Center – a $6 billion luxury retail project completed in August 2016 and home to North America’s fanciest Dunkin’ Donuts.
I guess a lot can change in a year. A long-awaited mall is open to the public. The W is back online. The Dunkachinno got classy. I mean, what’s next? The 2nd Avenue subway is going to be completed and accepting riders… You don’t say.
Aside from a few quick day-trips to New York, I spent the past three weeks laying low at my brother’s house a few miles outside Center City Philadelphia. Those 20-odd days was the longest period I stayed at a single place in more than 10 months.
I forgot what stationary life was like. To live in a place that was lived-in. To spend time with people you actually know. To stay somewhere and at the end of the week, not check out, but clean it.
I’m not ready to trade in my nomadic lifestyle just yet, but I’ll admit that I enjoyed my down time. In fact, I took full advantage of it.
One night halfway through my stay, my brother and his wife went out for a drink while I sat home and hoped neither of their children woke up. They returned to find me sprawled on the couch drinking herbal tea, doing the Times crossword and watching a rerun of Dateline. I also happened to be wearing a maternity sweat suit, which I initially borrowed from my sister-in-law when all my clothes were in the wash but then continued to wear for three consecutive days because it was so comfortable. It was perhaps the first time in my adult life that I acted my demographic.
My brother wasn’t so sure. “Nov,” he laughed. “This is getting ridiculous. Don’t you have a plane to catch?”
And you know what? I do. I’m Paris bound out of JFK at 11:55 tonight. And I’m pleased to report that I know exactly how to get there.